EDMONTON - It was Sidney Crosby's Western Canada debut Wednesday in the house that Gretzky built, and he responded by stealing the show.
The 20-year-old centre ignited a third-period comeback with three assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 before a sold-out crowd of 16,839 at Rexall Place. "It was just execution" said Crosby, referring to the Penguins falling behind 2-0 after the second period only to reply with four unanswered goals in the third period.
"In the third everybody came to play and that's why we won," he said.
"We skated better and we capitalized. We did a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities we had."
Kris Letang, Maxime Talbot, Ryan Whitney and Colby Armstrong scored for Pittsburgh while Robert Nilsson and Shawn Horcoff replied for Edmonton.
The Penguins have won five out of their last six and improved their season record to 13-12-2.
They outshot Edmonton 31-19 in a victory Penguin winger Georges Laraque, an ex-Oiler, labelled "a sweet feeling."
The Oilers dressing room was nearly empty five minutes after the game. The only sound was of a few remaining Oilers unwrapping tape from their pads.
"I thought we sat back and tried to hold the lead too much," said forward Sam Gagner.
"It's something we have to improve upon."
Fernando Pisani said they gave Crosby too much room to manoeuvre.
"We can't just let him do what he wants," Pisani said.
Talbot started the offensive explosion six minutes into the third when he jumped on a loose puck in front of Dwayne Roloson and backhanded it past the sprawling netminder.
Pittsburgh tied it 21 seconds later. Letang took a pass from Crosby in the high slot and wristed a whistling low shot past Roloson.
Crosby set up the go-ahead goal at 10:57. He dug out the puck from behind the net and fed it to defenceman Mark Eaton at the point, who blasted the puck that in turn bounced off Armstrong at the side of the net and in.
Crosby finished it off at 13:30, firing a bullet pass through the slot for a one-timer by Whitney.
The win snaps a three-game winning streak for the Oilers, who fall two games under .500 to 13-15-1.
Crosby now has points in six straight games - three goals, seven assists.
It was the first time he played in Edmonton due to the unbalanced schedule. He will play his first pro game in Calgary against the Flames Thursday and on Saturday in Vancouver against the Canucks.
Crosby has been treated like royalty by throngs of fans since arriving in Edmonton. The 20-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., received a warm ovation from the fans when he came out for the pre-game skate and waved to them after the final buzzer.
"It's great to come on the road and get a welcome like that. You never expect it, so it's nice," he said.
Nilsson opened the scoring at 5:39 of the first period.
He notched his second goal of the season when he took a cross-ice feed from defenceman Joni Pitkanen and one-timed it low from the face-off circle over the shoulder of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Horcoff made the score 2-0 with less than three minutes to go in the second frame on almost exactly the same play. This time, winger Ales Hemsky circled with the puck to Fleury's right before throwing it through the slot on a laser beam for Horcoff to one-time it over Fleury's short-side shoulder.
Notes: Hemsky returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised right knee. Sergei Gonchar was back on the Penguins' blue line after missing three games with a groin injury. Penguins coach Michel Therrien coached his 350th NHL game. The Oilers and Penguins don't meet again this season.